Backpage News from the Front

April 2016 Column 1


March 17 – April 6, 2016

ABOUT THIS COLUMN: “Backpage News from the Front” is a series of weekly special reports ‘for the duration’ of  the Jihadi Wave of 2015/6 (for lack of a better name) that combines the regular odd and only-in-Israel Chelm-like-but-true news stories ‘hiding’ in the Hebrew media that are normally reported by this author twice-monthly in columns entitled “Chelm-on-the-Med Online” — antics that Israelis continue to do even in the worst of times, and piquant aspects of heightened conflict — from the galling, to the touching, to the downright bizarre.


The Jihadi Wave of 2015/16 isn’t enough to worry about?

The Ministry of Defense isn’t taking any chances: Hazard signs are going up along the Med, warning sun worshipers to watch out for a tsunami and “Tzunami Hazard Zone” signs will also mark the shortest path* to higher ground. Last Monday a practice drill, sirens and all, was sounded in Ashdod and Ashkelon (to date, familiar only with waves of Grad rockets)…

How often does this happen?

Over the past 2,500 years, there have been 14 incidents of tsunamis, according to Haifa University academic Dr. Beverly Goodman…

And when was the last tsunami?

250 years ago — about a decade before the American Revolution…(Israel HaYom,

* a sign in Ashdod — one of the pilot sites, indicates those on the beach better be in good shape and be quick about it — able to run a full 1.3 kilometers inland if they want to reach higher ground…


Airlines don’t demand parents buy a ticket for their ‘lap tots” (small toddlers that don’t occupy a seat) so why should movie theatres, reasons MK Shuli Moalem-Rafaeli (Jewish Home party).

If the parliamentarian — a nurse by profession and a mother of seven kids and still counting — gets her way, places of entertainment that allow children under the age of 3 to enter won’t be allowed to charge admission if “due to technical or economic hardships” parents can’t get a babysitter and bring lap tots. The logic? The kids are not viewers, since they don’t understand the plot.” (Yediot)

A classic Jewish definition of the height of chutzpa relates how a man kills his parents and begs for mercy because he’s an orphan…

A chemist who tried to poison his ex to reduce his already tardy alimony payments to his wife and children…out of court, landed in prison for his labors. But, if you don’t at first succeed, try, try again! Having failed in his original mission, caught and sentenced to eight-and-a-half years for attempted murder, the divorcee then demanded a family court reduce his child support payments…on grounds that he’s an inmate.

How did the bench respond to the nervy request? Although it was a civil proceeding, the Israeli judge threw the book at him…but not just any old book. The Good Book. In typical Jewish style, this took the form of a rhetorical question: “Should a transgressor come out awarded?” (HaYotzeh Choteh Nischar?) ruled the judge, quoting the biblically-mandated requisite enshrined in halacha or Jewish law, leaving the inmate to answer for his overdue back payments. (Calcalist)

* Based in part on the ‘father’ of Jewish rhetorical questions, in I Kings 21:19 — “Hast thou killed, and also taken possession?”     


Archeologists uncovered  a 1.9 km. (1.2 mile) series of 2,000 year-old channels and collection pools that based on signs of repeated plastering (‘upkeep’) indicates that over an extended period, a mini Dead Sea canal channeled fresh water from the Ein Bokek spring to terraced persimmon orchards along the edge of the Dead Sea.

The Dead Sea Basin was the only place in the ancient world where persimmons were grown at the time (to be exact, between Ein Gedi and Jericho, according to archeologist). Findings show persimmon resin was mixed with purified oil and sundry spices to make the legendary, rare and much-coveted persimmon perfume renowned throughout the ancient world.

The team believes the plant grown in antiquity was different from persimmon trees we know today. (Israel HaYom)


Eighteen kibbutzim are suing the Israeli government for damages to their fish ponds due to state-mandated protection of wild water fowl — pelicans and great cormorants that view the kibbutzniks’ artificial fish ponds as a convenient lunch counter on their way to Africa and back. (See Catch-as-Catch-Can from December 2010 for some of the innovative ways the fishermen have tried to ‘dissuade’ the unwelcome visitors.)

The government took a conscious decision…preferring to protect the birds rather than protect their property rights??? Let the state pick up the $20 M ($5.1 M) bill left by the freeloaders* between 2013-1015, charge the litigants. (Yediot)


The IDF posted on its Facebook page a strange request: 67 years after Eilat was liberated (in March 1949 in a mad dash in the last days of the War of Independence to gain for Israel an outlet to the Red Sea) the Israeli army is suddenly asking the public-at-large whether anyone knows where the iconic ‘Ink Flag’ (Degel HaDeyo) disappeared to. The makeshift flag that was hoisted on that historic occasion is an image engraved in the collective memory: One of the commanders in the Negev Brigade — Avraham (‘Bren’) Adan z”l — shimmying up a makeshift flagpole to attach the ‘ink flag’ that had been made out of a white bed sheet* and a bottle of blue ink.

Ring a bell with anyone? Write the IDF at  (Maariv)

* Could this happen today? Not with soldiers in Israel’s far-from-spit-and-polish army bringing  bed sheets (and skivvies) from home to their barracks — with patterns ranging from mad plaids and polka dots and dainty flowers to Mickey Mouse sheets and boxer shorts…


Those looking for adventure don’t have to trek through South America or the Himalayas this summer.

The bold can intern after graduation for…the State of Israel, which is looking for Israeli university seniors in international relations who speak English well, to spend an all-expenses-paid three months in the jungle this coming September….in a genuine snake pit: the Israeli diplomatic mission at the United Nations in New York.


You can write (Yediot)







About the Author
Daniella Ashkenazy is a bilingual Israeli journalist and the founder and CEO of Chelm-on-the-Med Online, a news outlet in English of zany news from Israel culled from the Hebrew press, designed to transform preconceptions about Israel – one chuckle at a time